2009 NFL Free Agency: A quick tour of the NFC West

Over the past three days we've obviously been quite engrossed with the 49ers free agent dealings.  Throw in the rumors around guys like Kurt Warner and now Jay Cutler and it's easy to get distracted from the rest of the league, minus the big names like Haynesworth, Cassel and Dawkins, among others.

However, given the sometimes wide open nature of the NFC West, it seems particularly relevant to take a quick look around the division after the first weekend of free agency.  Every team has important holes to fill and several moves have gone down to date.  Of the four teams, the 49ers have been the most active.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams big move so far is signing center Jason Brown, a formerly of the Baltimore Ravens.  Given the truly awful nature of their offensive line last year, this seems like a good move to start rebuilding their offensive line.  Virtually every mock draft I've seen has them taking an offensive tackle with the 2nd overall pick.  They've got a lot of holes to fill, so they might as well do as much as they can for that offensive line.

Giants strong safety James Butler visited St. Louis but has left without a contract and is next meeting with the Browns.  Corey Chavous is certainly not getting any younger, so adding a youngster like Butler would most definitely help that secondary.  The folks at Turf Show Times seem to think the Rams are focusing on re-signing CB Ron Bartell and adding Butler, before moving on to smaller names.  And of course, Rams fans continue to wait for them to potentially release Orlando Pace and Torry Holt.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks 2008 season was an absolute disaster in large part due to injuries.  However, they also have a host of holes to fill on both sides of the ball.  They weren't exactly helped by the departures of free agents DT Rocky Bernard and RB Maurice Morris.  Morris isn't a stud running back, but he was a solid complement to Julius Jones, who is not known as a workhorse.  There aren't many options in free agency, but maybe Cal favorite Justin Forsett will get a crack at some reps.

The one Seahawk addition is DT Colin Cole, a guy that Seahawks fans are not too excited about.  He was a backup in Green Bay and at 29 isn't getting any younger.  Throw in the loss of Rocky Bernard and the Seahawks still have some holes on that d-line.  Beyond that, they've been a part of the TJ Houshmandzadeh traveling road show.  However, it now appears to be down to Minnesota and Cincinnati for the services of Housh.

Arizona Cardinals: The biggest story in Arizona, obviously, is the Kurt Warner saga.  He's scheduled to visit San Francisco today, but I think most people view it as an attempt by Warner and his agent to gain leverage with Arizona.  With Warner back the Cardinals would still be very dangerous heading into 2009.  If they lose Warner, whether it be to the 49ers, some other team or retirement, they become quite the wildcard.  Matt Leinart could step up for them, but who knows.  We've got plenty of time to figure that one out.

Other than Warner, the Cardinals re-signed 3rd string QB Brian St. Pierre.  So far they've lost 3rd string RB JJ Arrington to Denver and starting defensive end Antonio Smith to Houston.  In an interesting bit of news, they've brought Steelers CB Bryant McFadden in for a visit.  Signing McFadden would inject some serious depth into their secondary.  Let's root for somebody else to come up with a better offer for McFadden.

All in all it's been a pretty quiet free agency period for the NFC West.  I'd say the 49ers and Rams have done the best job so far.  But, of course, it's still early and there is still plenty of talent out there.  Unless things are really quiet this week, I'll plan on having another update of NFC West signings next Monday.

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